THE Royal College of General Practitioners has reasserted its opposition to any change in the law on assisted dying following a comprehensive consultation of its members.
Seventy seven per cent of the more than 1,700 RCGP members responding to the consultation remain opposed to a change in the law to permit assisted dying. In addition, of the 28 RCGP bodies that took part in the consultation, 20 reported a majority view against a change in the law.
Among the range of arguments against a change in legislation was the contention that it would be detrimental to the doctor-patient relationship and would put the most vulnerable groups in society at risk. Respondents also felt that it would be impossible to implement without eliminating the possibility that patients may be in some way coerced into the decision to die.
There was also the worry that a law in support of assisted dying might shift the focus away from investing in palliative care and treatments for terminal illnesses, and that it might instigate a "slippery slope" whereby it would only be a matter of time before assisted dying was extended to those who could not consent due to reasons of incapacity and severe disability.
In addition, some respondents thought that the possibility of a wrong decision being made was too high to take the risk.
Dr Maureen Baker, Chair of the RCGP, said: "This was one of the most comprehensive consultations the College has ever undertaken and the quality of the responses on this extremely important issue has been very high. GPs will continue, as they have always done, to provide excellent care to patients in the final days and hours of their lives."